A Chinese lawmaker from the booming eastern coastal province of Jiangsu has called the building of new countryside an issue of human rights in another sense.
"The new countryside should be prosperous, civilized and harmonious, and enjoy a comprehensive development," Ding Dawei, a deputy to the 10th National People's Congress (NPC), the Chinese legislature now in an annual full session in Beijing, said on Thursday.
According to Ding, also mayor of Nantong City in Jiangsu, the building of new countryside involves many human rights issues, such as farmers' right to subsistence and development, as well as their rights to exercise democracy in village management.
"Just as the central government has stressed, farmers' will must be fully respected in building new countryside. Local governments can only guide them to do the correct thing, and must not force them to do anything they don't want to," said Ding.
It might be easier to enrich the villages and farmers than to "help them achieve progress in the spiritual and political areas," Ding noted.
"I think the most important thing is to truly strengthen the democratic management of village affairs, which will offer a fundamental guarantee for farmers' rights to education, culture, entertainment, medicare and basic social security," he said.
China's 900 million farmers have gained the right to directly elect or oust their village heads since 1988, which gives them a bigger say in running village affairs. However, intervention in village elections by governments at higher levels, corrupt village heads abusing power, and the lack of transparency in village management often undermine rural democracy and even spark rural unrest.
(Xinhua News Agency March 9, 2006)